Posts Tagged ‘Justine Huxley’

LOOKING INTO THE ABYSS: Dispair, reconciliation and the Courage to Love by Justine Huxley

Justine is the director of St Ethelburgas Centre for Peace and Reconcilliantion in London and has just published: Generation Y, Spirituality and Social Change

In the last few weeks, we’ve all in our own ways been digesting the news that we have less than 12 years before climate chaos hits.  In the last 7 days, we’ve also been hit with reports that animal populations have been reduced by 60%, that the oceans are significantly warmer than scientists realised, and seen Brazil elect a president who has been described as a ‘global danger’.
It seems we have entered a new phase in our journey of self-destruction, and the ecological and social collapse we have suspected to be on the horizon is now coming to meet us.
The culture of astonishing denial that has pervaded the mainstream has made it almost taboo to talk about such things. The reactions of those unable to face reality can close us down or render it pointless to talk honestly.  But in recent weeks, we sense a sea change: the time for reticence is over.
Mainstream media and also the scientific community for years have been ‘softening’ the facts – always presenting them with relentlessly upbeat messages that we still have time.  The idea is deeply embedded that people must be protected from hopelessness and despair for fear of creating panic or even greater paralysis (Deep Adaptation, Jem Bendell, Cumbria University).  But those messages are now sounding increasingly hollow.  We need to act fast, absolutely, but even if we pull out all the stops, the likelihood is we are going to see more migration, poverty, hunger, conflict and war than we have ever known.
Protecting ourselves from hopelessness no longer serves us.  As many enlightened activists have told us (such as Scilla Elworthy, nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize), only if we walk towards the  darkness and not away from it, can we be transformed and be of real service to others or the world.
Many different kinds of responses needed – and I honour those responding with everything from civil disobedience to deepening our relationship with Earth as sacred.  We all need to follow our own hearts prompting.
For me, the theme of reconciliation is naturally to the fore.  I cannot shake off the image of an individual facing a life-threatening illness.  Confronted with a potentially terminal diagnosis, making rapid outer changes in lifestyle is immediate, driven by the determination to live.  But surrendering to the real possibility of death is behind the deeper change – change which could be viewed through the lens of reconciliation.  Reconciliation with our own mortality and with how our individual life has been lived often leads to reconciliation with our family, to making peace with our enemies, and to decisions – made with a sharply awakened consciousness – about which values to live by if time might be limited.
I’ve seen awe-inspiring change made by people in these situations.  I’ve seen people drop grudges and let go of fixed patterns overnight, in a way that seemed almost unbelievable to those around them.  I’ve seen people give up long-held defences and open to the beauty and spontaneity of life. It’s as if a secret reveals itself about what it means to be human.  The seriousness also catapults us beyond the limits of the physical body and into the journey of the soul. Something much bigger than our own individual life makes its presence felt – whether we call that God, or experience it through the power of human love and our existence in a web of  relationship with others.
All this happens when we are brave enough to go beyond denial, to embrace despair and be changed by it.  And miracles are possible in this space – miracles that include but are not limited to physical recovery.
Sitting with this theme of reconciliation, I feel a call to reach inward – to ask my own heart how I can love more fearlessly – not just those close to me, but our whole human family and those around the world whose lives are already being torn apart.  How can I allow my heart to be broken by it all – by the beauty of what we are destroying, by the melody of a solitary blackbird, or by those pregnant moments before first light, as a dark winter night awakens into day. How can I live the knowledge that mystery is present even in the midst of what is falling apart?
I also feel a call to reach outwards –  to colleagues, activists and spiritual companions – to make space for retreat and discernment.  Not to give up on outer action, but to explore in parallel this inner work of reconciliation and see if we can source the resilience that comes only from being in touch with the depths.  How can we prepare honestly for what is coming? How can we act with integrity, and keep acting from that place, even on the days when it all seems futile?  How can we meet this with the full depth of our spirituality – with both the ferocious passion and the ruthless inner detachment that real service demands?
To those willing to look into the abyss – may our love and connection with each other and with Earth make this a time of meaning –  and sustain us in the times to come.

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